Dear Readers: In lieu of our regular newsletter this week and in commemoration of the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, we share with you this essay written yesterday by our 2021 intern and Central Lakes College student, Vincent Reed. Vincent is a connector; his heart, mind, and spirit span many worlds. He is from both North Minneapolis and from the Central Lakes region of Minnesota. He will be attending Winona State University in Fall 2021.
By Vincent Reed
Today, on the evening of Dr. King's birthday, we stand in a dark shadow. A shadow that has long cast fear, hatred, racism, discrimination, and touched the lives of so many of your fellow Americans. The long overdue realization that a people in our country have been denied a right that so many others benefit from. Over the last four years, a divisive shadow has separated us. Separated us by the hatred of indifference, between culture, complexion, or a sense of superiority. We live in a state that has long been a beacon of injustice. We are living on land that we have unjustly stolen from a culture that we also have turned our backs on. A culture that has a long history of beauty and pride, a culture that respects their heritage and natural environment. We are the guilty party that has forgotten, erased in some cases, the rich culture of the indigenous people whose land we call home.
Many of you, myself included, are advocates for change. Some of you are only speaking the words, not living the mission of inclusion, diversity, and the hope for an equal and just country for all. There are many in the state that would rather forget about the sins of their fathers. These sins must be atoned for, even answered for. I read a letter this last semester by Dr. King titled “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that ignited in me the fire of social justice. A letter that many of you have also read. There is fire in this nation, this state, institutions demanding change. Change to bring light to the shadows of discrimination, systemic racism, institutional racism, segregation, exclusion, and the list goes on. Some of you also will be shining lights into dark places in our community. One should realize that these lights are going to shine regardless of whether you are the one shining the light, or another. The light is coming to these shadows cast across our country.
We all have heard the phrase “the children are our future.” Today, this phrase has such a stronger meaning than it did years ago, and if we believe it is all up to them, we are procrastinating. We must address the fact that as the country changes towards social justice, equality, diversity, inclusion, and togetherness, it will be our youth who will carry the torches into these dark places, these shadows that many of our parents feared. It will be our youth who face the elders, demanding they change, they conform to what should have been the norm years ago. Our children in twenty years will no longer be of a single heritage; more than likely, they will have friends, family or a spouse who is of a different culture. How do you want them to remember your part of change? How will you want them to live their lives? When you think about change, think about the difference that you are making in the lives of others, think about the change that is long overdue, the chance to leave an impression on this earth.
Some of you may think that I am too pushy, too demanding, wanting too much too soon. I ask you this question, though: when will be the right time? Some of you have had opportunities to make change, implement change. Then there are those like me, those who are coming behind with a fire that is burning, a fire that WILL NOT DIE! I am learning everyday increasingly about the struggle that my culture, and the culture of the indigenous people have fought years for. I ask another question to you all: how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as standing in the way of change, or being an advocate for change? I will not and cannot stand on the sidelines for this fight. I will be a beacon of light, bringing light to wherever I see darkness. A darkness that we all need to address head on.
My battle in many ways is also your battle. We are all intertwined together in this community, state, and country. A battle that was started generations ago, a battle that has cost my culture many great leaders. I too would give my life for this battle, not because I want to, but because this is a battle that is bigger than myself. As a college student now, I see the lack in many areas even when we look at the education structure in this state. Why is it that it is a struggle to get even a multi-cultural area on my campus, that it has long been a struggle? Why is it a battle to do something that should not even be questioned in today’s inclusion discussion? I may not see this happen while still attending my university, but I will not give up on what is right. I will not turn my back on those who share my struggle and fire, who come behind me at my university. What I will do is continue to fight for justice, equality, inclusion, and diversity. I will continue to call-out those individuals, institutions, systems, and any other form that denies equality anywhere that I see it. I challenge you if you are receiving this to not let political and social forces of negativity deny your aid in the struggle of equality. Instead, take a stand, let your conscious lead you to righteousness and equality.
Vincent E. Reed
January 17, 2021
Student, mentor, civil rights advocate, social equality advocate, foster care advocate, and a voice of change!